Mark Hamill is easily one of sci fi’s greatest leading men as well as one of its most versatile talents.
Whilst most famous for playing Luke Skywalker, the main hero from the original Star Wars trilogy. Hamill has brought a wide variety of colourful characters to life in his decades long career, from psychotic supervillains (such as most famously Batman’s nemesis, the Joker), to Hanukkah Zombies, to Paranormal detectives to ancient biblical figures. He has also enjoyed both a successful career in live action and become one of the most acclaimed and in demand voice actors of his generation. All of this of course makes him the perfect candidate for this weeks edition of Cult Actors.
We will examine Hamill’s most famous genre roles, as well as some of my own personal favourites, and see how he went from being the most noble of heroes for one generation, to the vilest of villains for another.
Mark Hamill’s career began in the early 70’s with among his first prominent roles being recurring character Kent Murray on General Hospital and the leading role of Doobie in the short lived sitcom The Texas Wheelers. He also guest starred on television series such as The Partridge Family and One Day At A Time.
He also did some voice acting in the 70’s too including supplying the voice of Corey Anders in the animated series Jeannie. Corey was the love interest of the title character voiced by Julie McWhirter. He later voiced the same character in a special crossover episode of Scooby Doo, “The Mystery in Persia” in 1973.
Whilst Hamill enjoyed a consistent career on television throughout the 70’s, it would ultimately be his starring role in Star Wars as Luke Skywalker that would make him a household name.
Star Wars Film Series/ Luke Skywalker
The main hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, Hamill has to date played this character on and off for almost 40 years!
Its funny thinking that Hamill only landed the role thanks to his friend Robert Englund (best known for playing the evil Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street film series) who whilst auditioning for a role in Apocalypse Now noticed that there were auditions going on down the hall for Star Wars and suggested to Hamill that he try out for the role of Luke.
Luke was something of a bland character on paper. A straight forward good guy with no real faults, but I think Mark brought a certain energetic quality to the character that made him more engaging to watch as well as a certain vulnerability in his relationship with Obi Wan that helped to make him seem more three dimensional. Though many fans and critics alike have accused Luke of being too whiny and I can understand why, but it has to be remembered that Luke at this point is meant to be a whiny teenager who we see gradually grow over the course of the original 3 films into the hero of the galaxy.
Over the years Luke despite being the main protagonist of the original trilogy has been somewhat overshadowed by the roguish Han Solo in popular culture. It is to be expected as after all Luke is the goody two shoes, whilst Han Solo was the cool guy who got all the best lines.
Still I think its fair to say that many of the most iconic moments in the series still tend to be centered around Luke such as his final showdown with the Death Star and of course the famous revelation that Darth Vader is his father.
Personally I always preferred Luke anyway. I’m not saying I disliked Han Solo, but sometimes he could be a bit too smug for my liking. Luke I always found to be likable and his story I always found to be more interesting. When we first meet him we couldn’t imagine anyone less likely to bring down the fearsome Empire. A whiny brat who wants to shirk all responsibility to go hang out with his friends, but as time goes on we see him mature and slowly become a great and noble warrior capable of besting even Darth Vader.
Though Luke was perhaps a bit too idealistic at times, I don’t think this worked against the character as again he was much younger than Solo, and when you are young you do tend to see things in more simplistic ways.
Whilst the success of Star Wars made Hamill a star around the world, his career would somewhat suffer on both the big and the small screen throughout the 80’s.
He found himself typecast as the hero for many years and though he did get starring roles in other successful films such as the comedy Corvette Summer opposite Annie Potts (in her film debut), the epic war film The Big Red One opposite Lee Marvin and the Musical The Night the Lights Went Out opposite Dennis Quaid. Ultimately he found it hard to escape the young Jedi’s shadow.
Hamill poking fun at his typecasting problem in a later episode of The Simpsons, Mayored to the Mob.
Apparently he was turned down for the role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the film adaptation of the famous play about his life ( a role that he had played to great acclaim on stage years earlier in 1983) because the studio executives did not want Luke Skywalker in the film.
It would not be until the 90’s through his roles as The Trickster and The Joker that his career would be revitalised.
Still despite this Hamill never shied away from talking about his star making role as Luke and regularly spoofed it on television in series such as Family Guy, The Simpsons and Third Rock From the Sun.
He most recently reprised the role in Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens, though his appearance in this film was a tiny cameo, it has been conformed that he will be be appearing in a larger role in Star Wars Episode 8 The Last Jedi.
With the character of Luke alone, Hamill secured himself a place as one of popular Sci Fi’s greatest icons. Whilst he has since gone on to play many more famous characters, Luke still endures and has secured Hamill a place alongside Sci Fi’s other great leading men.
Body Bags/ Brent Matthews
Hamill appeared in this classic anthology horror telemovie, in the final segment as a man who is taken over by the spirit of a serial killer.
Hamill’s character is a successful baseball player whose life is turned upside down when he suffers an accident that costs him his right eye. He subsequently undergoes an experimental operational procedure to replace it, but unfortunately the eye he gets belonged to a serial killer and a necrophilliac whose soul starts to take him over and try and re enact his killings.
The premise for the story is completely absurd. It was later parodied in an episode of the Simpsons called Hell Toupee where Homer Simpson gets a hair transplant and is taken over by the spirit of criminal Snake.
Still despite this the film works because it takes its absurd premise completely seriously and Mark Hamill is able to deliver quite a nuanced performance as he switches between the loving husband Brent and the monster that tries to take him over.
Village of the Damned/ Reverend George
A more minor role, Hamill appeared in this remake of the 1960’s cult classic. Though it was poorly received at the time of release it has since developed a huge cult following.
The most notable thing about Hamill’s character is the way he is killed when the demonic children force him to shoot himself. Its not the goriest death in the film but its still quite disturbing nonetheless.
Whilst not as strong the original 60’s classic overall its a decent remake and it was quite nice at this point in his career to see Hamill return to playing a more toned down character after the string of cackling villains he had played.
The Trickster/ The Flash (1990’s), Justice League Unlimited, Lego DC Comics Superheroes: Attack of the Legion of Doom, The Flash (2014), Justice League Action
The Trickster is probably the character people associate with Hamill the most after Luke and the Joker. Not only did his performance as this character prove to be very popular, but he has also returned to the role many times over the past almost 30 years like the Joker and Luke.
Hamill first played the Trickster in the classic 1990’s live action version of the Flash. Whilst highly regarded now, sadly the show was not that successful when it first aired. It only lasted one season before being cancelled.
I think the series had real potential. It treated the source material seriously and it had a strong cast too. Clearly the show was both inspired by and also trying to cash in on the success of the Burton Batman films. The Flash was re-imagined as a darker, more brooding, angsty hero who was motivated by the death of a loved one at the hands of criminals like Batman. His costume is also reminiscent of Michael Keatons as Batman too, with the same sculpted latex muscles.
The show also had a dark and gritty tone like the Burton movies and took place in similar gloomy, Gothic settings. Finally its theme was also provided by Danny Elfman who also provided the theme for the Burton Batman films.
Mark Hamill’s version of the Trickster can be seen as yet another example of the Burton Batman’s influence on the series. In many ways he owes more to Jack Nicholson’s show stealing performance as the Joker than he does the Trickster of the comics.
In the comics the Trickster was really more of a lovable rogue than a villain. He was a crook, but he made sure that his crimes never killed anyone. He enjoyed his rivalry with the Flash, but he still had immense respect for him as a hero, and even liked him personally. In later issues the Trickster even became a fully fledged anti hero.
For this series however the Trickster is re-imagined as a sadistic, murdering psychopath like the Joker. Clearly the producers wanted the Flash to have a similar flamboyant, crazy archfoe like Nicholson’s Joker. A further parallel between the two villains can be found in the Tricksters first episode where he falls in love with the Flash’s love interest Megan Lockheart.
This is similar to the first Burton Batman film where the Joker falls in love with Batman’s love interest Vicki Vale. In both instances rather humorously the Joker and the Trickster think they have two love rivals in the form of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and Barry Allen and the Flash and try to murder the more harmless one, Bruce and Barry, being completely unaware that they are really the secret identity of their other ” love rival” Batman and the Flash.
If only the Trickster and the Joker knew that they were getting rid of the other guy too I think they’d have tried a bit harder.
In both cases the Joker and Tricksters crush’s led to some hilarious moments as the two villains are even crazier when in love (as indeed are we all).
The two whilst always psycho loonies become completely divorced from any kind of objective reality when pursuing the object of their affections. When the Joker first meets Vicki, he introduces himself by killing everyone else in the cafe, showing her pictures of his previous victims, and his girlfriend whose face he has burned off with acid, after which he tries to burn Vicki’s face off with acid before Batman rescues her. He later sees this as him “doing well with a beautiful woman before she ran off with Batman.”
With the Trickster meanwhile he and Megan first meet when she is chasing him for a series of grisly murders he carried out. The Trickster however corners Megan and captures her, after which he tries to slice her in half with a chainsaw. The Flash manages to save her in time, but the Trickster suddenly as he is being carted off falls in love with Megan and actually comes to believe that he saved her from the Flash and that she has been put under the Flash’s evil spell. Furthermore he also comes to believe that she was his loyal sidekick Prank, even though he never at any point had a sidekick called Prank.
When the Trickster first tells Megan that he has fallen in love with her, mere minutes after having tried to slice her in half you think he is joking. You think its just a taunt as the police take him away, but later when he is in the car talking about his beloved you realise “fuck he’s actually serious!”
Whilst this version of the Trickster may have borrowed a lot from the Joker, in a nice irony he also may have inspired later versions of the Clown Prince of Crime too.
In his second appearance the Trickster is shown to be assisted by a young blonde woman named Zoey Clarke. Clarke begins as a groupie of the Trickster, sending him love letters in prison and yelling at Megan Lockheart that she didn’t deserve him, but eventually she helps him to escape and actually becomes his fantasy sidekick Prank.
Prank is utterly devoted to the Trickster even though he is relentlessly cruel to her. He ignores her at the best of times. He threatens to kill her, ties her up and puts a bag over her head that says “NAG NAG NAG” when she annoys him and regularly betrays her, sometimes even just because it amuses him rather than because he’s a dirty coward.
Yet despite this she always remains loyal to him. Zoey/Prank bares many similarities to Harley Quinn, the Jokers lover/sidekick who debuted many years later in Batman the Animated series. Harley like Zoey/Prank is utterly devoted to the Joker in spite the extreme physical and mental abuse he inflicts on her. Even on a superficial level they are both blonde, bubbly and sweet on the surface, but underneath they are vicious, sadistic and in their own way just as twisted and mad as the Joker and the Trickster themselves. Both even dress in similar bright, clown colours too.
There is even a scene where Zoey/Prank attempts to remove the Flash’s mask only to be threatened with death by the Trickster for trying to interfere in his rivalry with the hero. This is similar to the classic comic Mad Love, and its animated adaptation where Harley, foolishly believing that Batman is getting in the way of her and the Jokers courtship, captures Batman and tries to kill him only for the Joker to throw her through a 5 storey window for trying to interfere in his fun with Batman!
You can see from these clips how the Trickster/Prank dynamic was a complete precursor to the Joker/Harley relationship. You could replace all 3 characters in the second video with the Joker, Harley and Batman and I don’t think you’d have to change anything but the names.
I have no idea if Prank was an influence on Harley. I must admit I have never seen her be mentioned as such, but she was definitely still her spiritual predecessor nonetheless. A blonde, childlike, sweet, but crazy murderer who was inexplicably devoted to a giggling, vicious psychopath who constantly mistreated her in the most appalling way’s played by Mark Hamill!
Whilst the Trickster was depicted as being the Flash’s archenemy, he was only in 2 episodes of the series. To be fair though the show only lasted for one year. Had it gone on longer then I’m sure he would have been in many more episodes.
The two episodes featuring the Trickster are in my opinion the best in the entire show. I think this series suffered from the fact that it was unable to use a lot of the Flash’s colourful rogues gallery. This was due to practical reasons as they simply couldn’t have brought characters like Gorilla Grodd to life realistically on their budget.
They did still have a few of the Flash’s other enemies such as Captain Cold and Mirror Master, as well as an evil version of The Flash based on the numerous Reverse Flash’s over the years.
However the Trickster was the real standout rogue of the series. He almost made up for the fact that they couldn’t have more famous enemies of the Flash. I’d rate Hamill’s Trickster as one of the greatest comic book villains adapted to film or television.
Like Nicholson’s Joker he simply steals any scene he is in and he is really what people remember the most from the 90’s series. That’s not to do down John Wesley Shipp who was a brilliant Flash, but I think that Hamill’s Trickster was really a stand out villain in every respect.
I’d say that the best episode with the Trickster was his second appearance. Here the Trickster captures and brainwashes the Flash, turning him into his partner in crime.
The scenes of the Trickster and the Flash going on a crime spree together and later putting Central City on trial are hilarious. They go completely Adam West in terms of how absurd they make it. I can kind of understand why the Trickster abandoned Prank for the Flash as he and the evil Flash are way more fun together.
You can tell Hamill and Shipp loved doing these scenes together.
Hamill would go on to reprise the role of the Trickster over 10 years later in the animated series Justice League Unlimited.
The character only appeared in one episode “Flash and Substance.” Though drawn to resemble the version from the 90’s live action series, this interpretation of the character is actually closer to the comic book version. This Trickster though still insane is not a murderer. He is also a friend of the Flash and indeed the Flash later convinces him to not only tell him of a plot by the rogues to kill the Flash, but even turn himself in without a fight.
Whilst not as wild as his 90’s version, it was nice to see Mark get a chance to play a Trickster that was actually closer to the original version for once rather than a Joker copy.
Hamill next played the character in the animated movie “Lego DC Comics Superheroes: Attack of the Legion of Doom” (he also voiced Green Lantern’s archenemy Sinestro in this film too.) A joke is made about his resemblance to the Joker in other media, with someone even mistaking him for Batman’s archenemy.
Hamill later went on to reprise the role in live action in The Flash 2014 series. This series which is currently on its third season is a spin off of Arrow, with it, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow all making up a shared continuity.
I think this series has been a worthy successor to the original 90’s show. It has a strong cast, great characters, and it is faithful to the source material. Unlike the 90’s series it has been able to feature even the most over the top villains from the comics such as the Shark King.
The makers of this series are big fans of the 90’s series too and have filled it full of many references, tributes and Easter eggs to the 90’s series.
To start with many cast members of the 90’s version have made appearances in the modern Flash. Mark Hamill obviously reprises his role as the Trickster, whilst Amanda Pays also reprises her role as Tina McGee from the original too. John Wesley Shipp meanwhile plays Barry Allen’s father, Henry Allen.
The connections between the 90’s show and the 10’s show run deeper than that however. Its not a sequel but they are actually connected in universe. In its second season the modern Flash show explores the concept of alternate universes. When the Flash travels through the multiverse to Earth 2 we get a glimpse of other alternate universes. One of them is the universe the CW television series Supergirl takes place on (which is conformed when the Flash ends up travelling to her universe in Supergirl’s first season). Whilst another is shown to be the universe of the 90’s Flash.
This therefore means that not only do both series take place in the same multiverse, but the modern show is really an alternate version of the events of the 90’s show and that Hamill, Pays and Shipp are all playing alternate versions of their characters from the 90’s series. So in a way they are reprising their roles.
Though one discrepancy does exist in the fact that Shipp’s character is called Henry in the 10’s show and Barry in the 90’s show when they are supposed to be counterparts to each other, it can be explained this way.
In the 90’s show’s universe which we will just call Earth 90 for practicality sake, Henry Allen was named Barry instead. Maybe his parents had settled on either Henry or Barry as their child’s name and in Earth 90 they went for Barry, whilst on Earth 1 (the name of the universe the 2010’s series takes place on) they went for Henry. Barry Allen on Earth 90 went into the police force and through an accident became the Flash of that universe who went on to battle criminals such as his archenemy the Trickster.
On Earth 1 meanwhile Henry Allen his counterpart for some reason became a Doctor instead. He therefore never became the Flash, never met Doctor McGee and married a woman named Noira and had a child who he named Barry (perhaps because he knew that was what his parents were going to call him). Henry’s son through an entirely different accident later ended up becoming the Flash of that universe.
Incidentally later episodes show another universe, called Earth 3 where Henry Allen also became the Flash.
In this universe Henry was called Jay Garrick however (the name of the original Flash from the comic books) as in this universe his parents divorced before his birth, so he took his mothers maiden name of Garrick. She meanwhile named him Jay, which was the name of his brother in Earth 90. Presumably his brother was never born and she named him Jay instead. Thus in two universes Henry is the Flash, but in one he is the father of the Flash.
The idea of the 2010’s series being an alternate series of events to the 90’s one is further explored in the Trickster episodes.
In the 2010’s series it is said that the Trickster 20 years before the events of the series went on a massive rampage throughout Central City where he killed over a dozen people and destroyed whole buildings before being apprehended. Not only does this coincide with the date of his rampage from the 90’s show, but when we are shown pictures of his previous crime spree, pictures of Hamill from the 90’s show are used.
On Earth 1 since Henry never became the Flash in the 90’s, then there was no one to stop the Trickster and his rampage claimed even more lives in this universe. Sadly no mention has been made of Prank in this universe and the Earth 1 Trickster is instead served by his equally insane son Axel (who was the Trickster’s successor in the comics.)
Personally however I believe that Prank is Axel’s mother in this universe. Hopefully we’ll see Prank in a future episode. I’d love to see a family of Tricksters rampage their way across Central City. Also they could have Prank be in the Arrowverse version of Suicide Squad as a replacement for Harley Quinn who they can’t use. Ironically I’m sure most people would accuse Prank of just being a rip off of Harley Quinn, but us fans of the 90’s Flash series would know that Prank came first.
The Earth 1 Trickster is every bit as twisted, evil, sadistic and insane as the Earth 90 version so Hamill once again is really playing the Joker more than the Trickster of the comics.
The Earth 1 Trickster is not the Flash’s archenemy however like his 90’s counterpart was. That position is filled instead by Eobart Thwaine and Zoom in the 21st century series. The Trickster has in fact only appeared in two episodes of the series so far due to Hamill’s busy schedule.
Still despite this the Earth 1 Trickster is still presented as one of the Flash’s most dangerous enemies. He comes closer to killing him than most of his other foes. Even more impressive when you consider that he is one of the few in this series that doesn’t have powers. In his first battle with the Flash, the scarlet speedster is forced to discover another power in order to defeat him (the power to phase through solid objects in order to get a bomb off his arm)
I am not sure which of the two Trickster episodes is my favourite. They have both been very strong. I loved his twisted relationship with his son in his first appearance (there was even a nice homage to Star Wars when the Trickster says “I am your father” to Axel) However I also felt the Trickster and Weather Wizard made a great team in the second episode. I particularly liked the Tricksters delusional rant about how after he kills the Flash, the hero of the city who everyone looks up to in a horrible way in public, then everyone will think he saved the city. Even though he is a lunatic you still wonder how he came to that conclusion?
Whilst the Earth 1 Trickster has not appeared in series 3 so far, Mark Hamill did go on to play the Earth 3 version of the character in a small cameo.
This version of the Trickster physically resembles the Joker. He has white skin, a large grin and greenish hair. The Earth 3 Trickster is also even more insane than either of his two counterparts as he is willing to blow himself up at the drop of a hat. The Earth 1 Trickster at least is still shown to value his own safety, but this guy it seems was going to blow himself to pieces even before the Flash showed up.
The Earth 3 Trickster is shown to battle the Jay Garrick Flash who is played by John Wesley Shipp. This marks the second time the two actors were reunited in the modern Flash series. In the Tricksters first appearance in the 2014 series, the villain captures Henry Allen. I liked the scenes with Henry and the Trickster, not only because they were nice homages to the 90’s series, but its also funny thinking that the Trickster and Henry in another universe (two in fact including Earth 3) were sworn archenemies with one another, but in this universe they barely know each other. Its the same with Henry and Doctor McGee who in another universe were practically soul mates, but on Earth 1 they only meet twice.
Mark Hamill and John Wesley Shipp have been fighting with each other for 20 years across 3 different universes, and finally when Mark’s about to kill John, John’s son from another universe bursts in and saves him!
Finally Hamill also recently voiced the Trickster in the animated series Justice League Action (where he also voiced both the Joker and Swamp Thing) Sadly I have not had a chance to watch this series yet so I can’t comment on Hamill’s performance, but I’d imagine that it will probably be closer to the actual Trickster so as to not clash with Hamill’s Joker.
Not many actors have 3 characters that everyone, audiences, directors, writers want to see them keep returning to for over 20 years. Most actors are lucky if they have one character like that, like Arnold Schwarzanegger with the Terminator. Some have 2 such as Stallone with Rocky and Rambo but its quite rare to have 3. The only other actor I can think of off the top of my head that had 3 characters they kept returning to over several decades is Peter Cushing.
Cushing played Victor Frankenstein, Van Helsing and Sherlock Holmes from when he was a young man to when he was an old man. Whilst other actors played those roles in between, audiences clearly were always wanting to see more of Cushing in these roles. With Hamill its the same. Yes other actors have played the Joker to great acclaim, and even the Trickster too, but still clearly people haven’t got tired of his versions of those great characters and obviously there will only be one Luke. Also much like Cushing with Van Helsing and Holmes, you almost don’t even notice that they are older. Cushing was still able to thrash Vampires in his old age as much as he could as a young Van Helsing, whilst Hamill’s Trickster is still as dynamic and engaging on the screen as he ever was.
No one can terrorise a room full of people and make you laugh at the same time quite like Hamill.
What’s even more incredible is that all 3 of Hamill’s performances as these characters in some ways are being brought to larger audiences than ever before after many decades. His version of the Trickster certainly is. Though well received from the start the original Flash series was for many years overlooked, whilst the recent series has not only proven to be a massive hit, but has also helped more people discover the original too. His version of the Joker meanwhile has similarly been arguably brought to larger audiences through the Arkham games (one of which saw him win a BAFTA for his performance) Though the original Batman animated series was always very popular, at the very least even if the Arkham games are not a wider audience they are still very high profile.
Finally the modern Star Wars films again though not more popular than the original are still massively successful.
Its doubtless that Hamill will go on to play all 3 characters for many more years to come. Personally I’ll always be happy to watch his Trickster terrorise the Flash and Central City either in live action or animation.
Ferris Boyle/ Batman the Animated Series
Hamill voiced this villain in what is regarded by fans and critics alike as one of, if not the greatest episode of Batman the Animated Series, Heart of Ice.
Boyle in contrast to the Joker and the Trickster was more of a straight, mundane villain. A slimy, crooked, weasly business man who doesn’t care who he hurts.
Still Boyle has the honour of creating one of Batman’s most dangerous rogues, Mr Freeze.
Victor Fries originally worked for Boyle. He was working on an experiment to try and cure his terminally ill wife Nora. He had placed her in suspended animation until a treatment could be found for her condition. Unfortunately Boyle decided to pull the plug feeling that it wasn’t profitable.
Victor pleaded with Ferris not to interrupt the experiment as it would kill Nora, but Ferris didn’t listen and in the resulting scuffle where Victor pulled a gun on Ferris there was an explosion which seemingly killed both Nora and Victor.
This scene is easily one of the most powerful in any Batman adaptation. Michael Ansara who voices Victor and Mark Hamill play off of one another brilliantly. Fries is so emotional, begging with Boyle who in contrast is utterly pitiless. At no point does Boyle show even the slightest bit of compassion towards Victor and Nora. Then of course there is the weasly way he gets the better of Victor which helps to make Boyle one of the most utterly loathsome characters in the whole series.
Of course this later comes back to bite Boyle when it is revealed that Victor survived the accident and returns to get revenge on Boyle.
The final showdown between the two is another thrilling moment as Boyle pitifully begs Freeze to spare him, only for Freeze to be just as pitiless as he once was in return.
“You beg? In my nightmares I see my Nora behind the glass, begging me with frozen eyes. How I have longed to see that look frozen on you!”
You are actually annoyed for the only time in the series when Batman stops a villain from killing someone.
Hamill and Kevin Conroy who voices Batman also play off of one another brilliantly too. Hamill would later go on to play the Joker opposite Conroy as Batman, but even here you can see how well the two actors work opposite each other.
From the start its obvious that Bruce dislikes Boyle immensely. Even before he knows what he has done, Bruce can tell what a phoney Boyle is, and later though Batman stops Freeze from killing Boyle, he also doesn’t both to free his legs from the ice. Earlier when Freeze accidentally shot one of his own men with his ice gun, Batman went to great lengths to help Freeze’s lackey. He even took him back to the Batcave to treat him. Here however he seems to enjoy watching Boyle squirm in the ice and even taunts him at one point.
Whilst not as dynamic a character as the Joker or the Trickster, Boyle was still an effective villain in his own right. He is a classic example of the banality of evil. A selfish, greedy coward who always thinks he will be able to walk away from the harm he causes other people unscathed. Hamill really captured the characters sneering arrogance and wretched cowardice perfectly.
The Joker/ DC Animated Universe, Arkham Game series, Batman the Killing Joke, Justice League Action, Birds of Prey, Batman New Times
Mark’s greatest role in my opinion. To so many of us who grew up in the 90’s, Mark is THE Joker.
Mark first played the Joker in the classic Batman the Animated Series in 1992. This series would be the first in what has become known as the DC Animated Universe, a group of tv shows and films all of which share the same continuity. The DCAU as its more commonly known would last for over 10 years until Justice League Unlimited in 2006. Most of Mark’s performances as the Joker are within the DCAU, though he has played the character in a couple of high profile non DCAU productions too such as most notable the Arkham games.
Many talented actors have brought the most famous of Batman’s adversaries to life over the decades, but I’d say the 4 most iconic interpretations are Cesar Romero’s in the 60’s television series, Jack Nicholson’s in the 1989 movie, Heath Ledgers in the 2008 movie The Dark Knight and obviously Mark Hamill’s incarnation in the DCAU.
All 4 performances were brilliant, but I think Mark was the best. Of course that’s just my opinion, but I think that Mark’s Joker had the widest range.
The other 3 actors I think all managed to define a different aspect of the Jokers personality from the comics. The Joker much like his nemesis Batman has changed dramatically over the years and Jack, Cesar and Heath I feel all drew from one particular era for inspiration.
Romero’s performance captured the lighter qualities of the character. Throughout the 50’s and the 60’s the Joker was depicted as a silly prankster as befitting the campier tone of the comics at that time. Romero’s Joker who was also a total buffoon was clearly meant to embody that era of Batman and in that respect I think he was 100 percent successful.
Nicholson’s performance meanwhile I think captured the darker humour of the character. The Joker has always been able to get us to laugh at the most horrible things he does to people even when we know we shouldn’t. Jack’s Joker similarly was always able to make us laugh when he stabbed people in the throat with sharpened feathers, killed news reporters with Smilex, or shot his “number 1 guy” Bob for no reason at all. Jack’s Joker I think also really drew from the 70’s when the Joker was re-imagined as a vicious killer again, but also still portrayed as a somewhat over the top campy character in classic stories like “The Jokers Five Way Revenge”.
Finally Ledgers Joker I think drew from the characters earliest appearances. In the beginning the Joker was a truly monstrous villain. He looked terrifying, he was genuinely mysterious. We knew nothing about his origins and where he came from (and wouldn’t for another 20 years), and he was always two steps ahead of Batman. He was also a devastating hand to hand fighter, capable of even besting the Batman himself! Ledgers Joker captured all of these qualities, with his Joker similarly being mysterious. We never did find out where he came from or who he was. He also is two steps ahead of Batman and the police throughout the film (and in many ways wins completely!) And physically he is much more of a threat to Batman being able to defeat him in their final confrontation and never shows any fear, even when falling to his death, unlike Jack and Romero who much like the 60’s and 70’s versions of the Joker were both cowardly.
Mark Hamill meanwhile I feel was able to make the character both frightening and comical and thus didn’t just seem like one version of the character from a particular era, but the Joker overall..
In certain episodes of Batman the Animated Series the Joker is a Romero style comical villain, such as Make Em Laugh where his plan is to brainwash three comedians in order to win a comedy trophy. At the end of the episode the Joker is humiliated by having the comedy trophy he wanted to steal knocked onto his head and his trousers pulled down in public. Such a scene would not look out of place in a classic campy Batman comic from the 60’s or indeed the Adam West series.
Hamill is every bit as good as Romero in showing a lighter side to the Joker in episodes like this, but at the same time he was also just as frightening as Ledger or Nicholson ever were in the darker episodes of Batman the Animated Series.
In the episode called Harlequinade the Joker plans to destroy all of Gotham with a nuclear bomb. Even when Batman disables the bomb the Joker still fires at it with a machine gun declaring “that bomb’s going off even if I go with it”! Here Hamill captures the “just want to watch the world burn” persona and psychotic fanaticism of the character as well as Ledger ever did. You genuinely believe that his Joker is prepared to kill himself, and millions of innocent people just to get Batman and the police.
In the episode The Laughing Fish meanwhile (which is based on the comic of the same name) the Joker tries to copyright fish that he infects with his Joker gas (which gives them the same hideous grin he has). When he is told he can’t copyright fish, a natural resource he starts murdering people one by one until he gets his wish. Just like the Dark Knight he announces who he is going to kill before he does it. I was always terrified of this episode when I was young. The Joker is more like a horror movie villain stalking his victims in the night, preying on the most vulnerable and weak.
Another example of how frightening Hamill’s Joker could be can be seen in Jokers Favour where the Joker torments the lowly Charlie Collins for two years. Charlie angers the Joker when after a long day at work, he screams at the Joker on the road for cutting him off. Once he realises however that its the Joker and not just a rude driver, Charlie panics and drives away. Unfortunately the Joker starts following him.
Again I was always scared of this scene as a child. Imagine being in Charlies situation here. You shout and scream at someone you think is just an arrogant jerk, but then you see that its the most wanted man in the country! Then you hope he’ll just forget it. Surely he has other fish to fry. Indeed the Joker is being chased by both Batman and the police at that point. Yet he still devotes his attention to Charlie, following him, taunting him just simply by waving his hand out of the car. Later as Charlie panics he becomes lost in the woods and soon to his horror sees the Joker is still following him and now there is no one else around. When the Joker corners Charlie he agrees to spare him as long as Charlie helps the Joker at a later date.
Charlie goes to the effort of moving and changing his name to avoid the Joker, but two years on the Joker reveals that he has been following Charlie the whole time before he asks him for a favour (which would have killed Charlie had it not been for Batman).
Perversely the Joker describes this torture of Charlie and ruining his entire life as his hobby!
“For two years he watched me like a bug in a jar, watched and laughed and threatened my family!”
Its a brilliant example of how chaotic the Joker truly is the way no one is safe from his inhuman cruelty. One minute he could be targeting the Mayor such as in the episode Be A Clown, the next he could abandon those plans to target the most lowly, harmless citizen like Charlie Collins all because it amuses him. Once again Hamill is every bit as terrifying in this episode as any of the most famous darker Jokers are in their worst moments.
Finally in addition to this Hamill also I feel was able to portray the characters darker humour as effectively as any other actor too. Like Nicholson he was often able to get us to laugh at the villains vilest actions, like torturing Commissioner Gordon and killing his own men on a whim.
I have seen many people say that whenever they read a Joker comic they instinctively have Mark’s voice in their head for the Joker. I do too, and I think the reason for that is that unlike the other Joker performances you can imagine Mark’s voice fitting the villain in any type of story, from any era.
If its the camp, silly Joker from the 60’s Mark’s voice fits, if its the terrifying Joker that cripples Barbara Gordon from the 80’s then Hamill’s voice still fits.
Obviously you couldn’t imagine Ledger in a camp Adam West style story, and similarly you couldn’t imagine Romero in a darker Batman.
Thus again whilst the other actors managed to successfully portray the Joker from a particular era, Mark Hamill to me was the only one who was the Joker all around.
Another aspect of the Jokers personality that the 90’s animated series captured perfectly was his relationship with Batman. In this series the Joker wanted to kill Batman, but he was determined that he was the only one who would kill him.
Whilst this was something of a cliched premise, the shows writers and Hamill I think were able to do something new with it.
In the episode The Man Who Killed Batman the caped crusader is seemingly killed when he accidentally falls of a building during a confrontation with small time crook “Sid the Squid”. Sid becomes known as the man who killed Batman by the underworld and its not long before he meets the Joker.
The Joker pretends to be delighted with his foes demise at first. Even claiming he wants to shake Sid’s hand, but it’s apparent from the beginning that underneath he is unhappy with the whole situation. He later stages a robbery to draw the Batman out and when it doesn’t work he believes that Batman is gone and later not only tries to kill Sid, but even holds a funeral for the Dark Knight.
The Joker even cries at Batman’s death. At first it seems like a totally surreal situation. The Joker of all people is devastated at Batman’s death? He’s almost mourning him like a friend! When he says “without Batman crime has no punchline” you almost forget what their relationship really was and feel sorry for the Joker losing the one person who gave his life meaning. Its insane!
However you later realise that it actually makes perfect sense. For the past 7 years the Joker has been determined to get back at Batman so much he has devoted his entire existence to it. He actually has had nothing else in his life for so long but his feud with Batman and now he finds out that it was all for nothing. All those years were completely wasted.
The fact that Batman was also disposed of by such a small time crook hurts his ego tremendously. Now in people’s eyes if Batman is so easy to dispose of, maybe he wasn’t that powerful after all? Maybe it was just that the likes of the Joker, the Penguin and Two Face were so incompetent? Thus he is killing Sid almost to save face more than anything else.
Mark Hamil has listed this scene as being his all time favourite performance as the Joker and has even performed it at conventions.
Its such a delicious irony that if someone else ever kills Batman, the Joker, his greatest ever adversary will be the only person to avenge him (as the likes of Robin and Gordon would never kill anyone)
Another example of the Jokers obsession with killing Batman can be found in the episode Joker’s Favour. Here the Joker is cornered by Charlie after his attempt on his life. Charlie finally fights back and reveals that he found one of the Jokers old bombs. Charlie tells the Joker that he has had enough of him tormenting him and his family and so he is going to blow them both up.
The Joker becomes absolutely terrified to the point where he ends up calling out to Batman for help. When Batman shows up, the Joker even cowers behind the caped crusader until it is revealed that the bomb is a dud leaving the Joker utterly humiliated.
Probably the low point of the Jokers career.
The great thing about this scene however is that in many ways it is the reverse of the Jokers Eulogy to Batman. The Joker does not fear death in this series. We saw that when he was happy to blow himself up to destroy Gotham. Here however he is terrified at the thought of being killed by a “miserable little nobody” like Charlie Collins.
The Joker would love to be killed by Batman when he finally drives him over the edge, or in a blaze of glory that takes down Gotham. But he can’t bare the thought of suffering such an ignoble end at the hands of someone so (in his eyes) insignificant. Charlie knows this of course and rubs it in.
“You miserable little nobody. If I get caught again. Your wife and son are history!”
“You’re not getting caught. Not this time. I found this blown out of the van. This is how it ends Joker, no grand schemes, no final duel with the Dark Knight. Tomorrow all the papers will read is that the great Joker was found blown to pieces in an alley alongside a miserable little nobody. Kind of funny. You see I can destroy a man’s dreams too, and that’s really the only dream you’ve got. Isn’t it?”
I think Hamill is just as brilliant in this scene as he is in the famous Joker Eulogy moment as he really does make the Joker seem pitiful and desperate the way he tries to reason with Charlie, calls out to Batman for help in his absolute shame, and even hilariously at one point tells Charlie he’s crazy!
You’d have never thought at the start of the episode when the Joker terrorised Charlie that Charlie would later bring the villain to his knees. That was the great thing about Mark’s Joker though. He was such an utterly unpredictable character all around. You’d always hope he would show up, but at the same time you could never guess what type of story it would be or what would happen when he did.
You could to some extent with Batman’s other rogues. With villains like Mr Freeze or Clayface or Two Face for instance you would expect a darker episode, whilst with the Riddler you’d know it would be more campy. You could also guess what their motives would be too to some extent. Mr Freeze wants to help his wife, or its to do with his wife in some way, Clayface wants to be normal, Poison Ivy cares about plants.
With Mark’s Joker however you have no idea what way it could go. Would it be a silly comedy episode where the Joker was a total clown? Or would it be a dark frightening episode that takes us deep into what a relentless sadist he really is? Or would it be both?
What would the Joker want? Would his plans be a threat to all of Gotham or would he focus on something stupid like a comedy contest? Would the Joker be a deranged madman not caring if he blew himself up to get the Batman, or a miserable coward calling to him for help? Would he try and smash Batman’s skull in with a wrench or cry over his death? Would he casually toss the woman who loves him more than anything out of a window because she didn’t get his joke or embrace her after she tried to blow his brains out and foiled his scheme? Would he toss one of his own henchman to his man eating mutant hyena’s because he asked a stupid question, or would he grieve when Batman destroyed his stupid robot, Captain Clown as though it were his son!
All of this made the Hamill Joker a character that you never got bored of watching.
Of all the Batman’s main enemies the Joker appeared by far the most frequently in the animated series which is not surprising. The animated Joker was an absolute tour de force in terms of his characterisation and Hamill’s performance. You can see why the producers of the series wanted to use him as often as possible.
After Batman the Animated Series finished Hamill would reprise the role of the Joker in the feature length film Batman Mask of the Phantasm.
A sequel to the Animated Series, this film was actually originally intended to be the finale to the series overall.
Here the origins of the Joker were explored. Originally the Joker (before he fell into a vat of chemicals that bleached his skin white and drove him insane) was a sadistic hitman working for the mob (much like Jack Nicholson’s version) He was responsible for the murder of Batman’s one true love Andrea Bueamont’s father.
Andrea returns many years later as the masked Phantasm and begins murdering all the members of the mob responsible for her fathers death, saving the Joker for last.
There are some brilliant Batman/Joker fights in this film but the greatest moment is Andrea’s final confrontation with the Joker. Here the villain is broken, beaten, and bloodied. He has no way of defending himself and she wants him dead more than anyone else on the planet. She is also already a killer. On top of that the Jokers base of operations for years is exploding. All of his life’s work is going up in flames and what does he do? He rolls his head back and laughs as though it were his greatest moment.
Again this is yet another example of how Mark’s Joker is just completely unpredictable. Still as mad as it is, much like the Joker shedding a tear at Batman’s death, it does makes sense from the Jokers twisted perspective.
Whilst the Joker does hate the idea of his death being a low key event, and not a final duel with his archenemy, at the same time you can see how he would laugh at the irony of it all. Batman made the Joker. He was a no name crook who was driven insane when Batman accidentally knocked him into a vat of chemicals. For years he has loved tormenting Batman with this knowledge, but now he is facing a monster that he created the Phantasm who is going to finally be the one to kill him. Added to that the fact that Batman cares for her means that in death the Joker will taint Batman’s life in a way he never managed to in life, as killing the Joker will finally put Andrea beyond a point of no return. Thus he can’t help but laugh at it all.
This scene also demonstrates another defining aspect of Hamill’s performance as the clown prince of crime. His dynamic use of the villains laughter. Hamill would apparently practice his laugh on the way to the recording studio in his car. He joked that it was odd that no one seemed to think his behaviour was odd.
Whilst Batman Mask of the Phantasm was intended to be the end of that version of Batman, ultimately a sequel series set many years later called The New Batman Adventures would soon follow. Hamill once again reprised his role as the Joker.
Much like the original series, the Joker was the most recurring villain. Of his many appearances in this series, his best was undoubtedly Mad Love, which was based on an old comic written by the creators of the series.
Here we discover the origins of the Jokers sidekick Harley Quinn, a character original to the Animated Series that proved to be so popular she was later incorporated into the comics and even subsequent live action adaptations of Batman such as Birds of Prey and the recent blockbuster Suicide Squad.
Harley began as the Joker’s psychiatrist Doctor Harleen Quinzell but she eventually fell in love with him after he spun false stories about an abusive past that she foolishly believed. She came to see the Joker as a poor lost soul that she needed to protect.
I quite like the way that the introduction of a love interest will almost always show a softer side to even the vilest villain like Alfred Bester in Babylon 5, but in the Mark Hamill Jokers case however it just shows a whole new twisted side to him.
Harley Quinn is a woman who loves the Joker more than anything else in the world. She gives up everything to be with him, and there is nothing she wouldn’t do for him.
He however treats her in the most appalling way. He regularly beats her, even comes close to killing her on many occasions. He also never shows her any real affection and generally just uses her for his own ends and abandons her, even outright betrays her when it suits him.
A new low even for him!
Mark Hamill would go on to play the Joker in three episodes of Superman the animated series called “Worlds Finest”. This crossover episode established both of the Batman and the Superman cartoons existing in the same universe, effectively creating the DC Animated Universe.
In Worlds Finest the Joker travels to Metropolis after stealing a Kryptonite statue to make a deal with Lex Luthor to kill Superman for a billion dollars.
A meeting of two great, but twisted minds.
The Joker actually comes closer to killing Superman than any of his foes apart from Darkseid. Pretty impressive when you consider he doesn’t have any super powers. Had it not been for Batman then Superman would have been well and truly dead. Lois Lane too.
Some fans have criticised the fact that the Joker was able to dispatch Superman, and in the later Justice League series heroes like Wonder Woman and the Flash relatively easily whilst he still always struggles with Batman who has no super powers at all.
However I don’t see this as a contradiction. To start with Superman has a key weakness that the Joker can exploit. Remember that Lex Luthor, Supes archenemy has no powers either, and he not only fights the Man of Steel but the entire Justice League on a regular basis.
Also many of the more powerful heroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman greatly underestimate the Joker. They think due to his somewhat comical appearance that he is not a real threat. Superman doesn’t even take the Joker seriously when he has a Kryptonite statue until its too late.
Batman meanwhile through experience knows to never underestimate the Joker for a second and to always expect the unexpected with the Joker.
World’s Finest is a truly excellent story. Hamill is on top form and watching him interact with Clancy Brown’s version of Lex Luthor is also brilliant. Clancy Brown is for me and many others the definitive Lex. He is to that character what Hamill is to the Joker.
Watching the Joker and Lex work together is always interesting because you are never sure which one is worse. On the one hand the Joker is more senselessly cruel. You could never imagine Lex doing something as heinous as crippling Barbara Gordon just for the hell of it like the Joker. Everything Lex does has a purpose even if its just to get back at Superman. At the same time however the Joker at the very least has the excuse of being completely insane, where as Lex Luthor is completely responsible for his actions.
Sadly the only downside of having the Joker and Lex together is that whenever they fight one has to naturally get undermined as a villain. As the Joker is the most popular supervillain of all time, poor old Lex is always the one that gets undermined. I say that even as someone who prefers the Joker to Lex.
World’s Finest proves to be no different as at the end of the three part story, the Joker captures Lex and uses his own Lex Wing to bombard all of Metropolis with bombs killing thousands of people, before Batman and Superman manage to stop the Joker and save Lex.
Its sad that even in the animated universe the Joker still beats Lex but its nothing new.
In animation or in comics Lex is always the Jokers little bitch.
Whilst its sad to see Lex get undermined, the combo of Brown and Hamill together is brilliant and not surprisingly this wouldn’t be the last time the these two versions of the famous villains would meet. In fact the DCAU Joker is ironically in more episodes with Lex Luthor than he is with any other Batman villain, apart from Harley Quinn of course.
Hamill would also voice the Joker in an episode of an animated series called Static Shock. This episode called “The Big Leagues” sees the Joker travel to the main hero of the show, Virgil Hawkins city to recruit a metahuman gang. Batman and Robin follow him there and working with Virgil they are able to foil the Clown Prince of Crimes plans.
Sadly this episode is not quite as strong as World’s Finest. Its not bad by any means but it is kind of just a standard crossover episode, though at least it did establish Static Shock as part of the DCAU.
Following the conclusion of The New Batman Adventures and Superman, Hamill would next play the Joker in the feature length film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
This movie served as the finale to the Batman Beyond series. Batman Beyond was set 50 years after the New Batman Adventures and Superman. It sees an elderly Bruce Wayne train a new Batman, Terry McGuinness to protect the Gotham of the future.
This film naturally not only features the return of the Joker, but also shows us how the villains feud with the original Batman came to an end.
At some point after the New Batman Adventures (and Justice League and Justice League Unlimited) the Joker captured the second Robin, Tim Drake and tortured him for weeks on end.
Robin eventually broke and told the Joker all of Batman’s secrets. The Joker continued to torture the boy even after he told him all he wanted to know, until eventually Tim was driven completely insane. The Joker then dressed Robin as a tiny versions of himself and dubbed him “Little J”. He even came to see Robin as his son!
In this scene Mark’s Joker is every bit as terrifying and evil as either Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledgers Jokers ever were. Its hard to believe he was the same villain from Make Em Laugh with the trophy on his head and his pants by his ankles.
Ultimately the Jokers plan to use Robin or Little J to kill Batman backfires on him literally as Robin ultimately shoots the Joker through the heart.
It took a year for Robin to be nursed back to sanity after his ordeal. Bruce Wayne meanwhile forbade Tim from ever being Robin again.
50 years later the Joker mysteriously returns from the grave to torment Bruce Wayne and the new Batman Terry McGuinness It is later revealed that the Joker survived by embedding his DNA and mind on a microchip which he then implanted into Robin’s neck in the weeks he held him hostage.
Though it took decades the chip was eventually able to physically turn Robin into a copy of the Joker and allow his mind to take over Tim’s body. The physical and mental changes only last for a short while however after which Tim has no memory of what happened, though the Joker says at the end that soon he will be able to live in Tim’s body permanently.
At the end of the film Terry McGuinness finally puts an end to the Joker when he uses his own electric joy buzzer to destroy the chip.
Personally I’d rate Return of the Joker as my favourite animated movie in either live action or animation. I’d also say its Mark’s finest hour as the Joker and the most effective take on the villain I’ve ever seen.
In this film the Joker is an absolute monster through and through. Mark somewhat underplays the villain at certain points which gives the impression that the Joker’s sadism comes from who he is rather than his lunacy.
This idea was previously explored in Mask of the Phantasm when we saw that prior to becoming the Joker, he was already a sadistic criminal who murdered Andrea’s father in cold blood.
In Return of the Joker they continue the idea that all of the silly aspects of his personality, the clown costumes, gag guns, stem from his madness, whilst all of his cruelty comes entirely from who he is. When he talks about torturing Robin and “peeling back the layers” of the boy’s mind and taunts Batman over the death of his parents, there is an eerie calmness to him right before he bursts into a fit of his trademark diabolical laughter, which suggests that actually he knows exactly what he is doing. He isn’t just some madman killing because he is divorced from reality. Sane or insane he’d always enjoy hurting people.
This is by far my favourite Batman/Joker confrontation in any medium. The Joker has never seemed more monstrous the way he not only relentlessly tortures Robin, a teenage boy, but also tries to drag him down to his level too by forcing him to shoot Batman..
After Return of the Joker, Hamill would next go on to play the villain in the Justice League animated series. This series was released after Batman Beyond Return of the Joker, but it was set many years before it, though it was also set after the earlier Batman, the New Batman Adventures and Superman animated series.
The Joker first appeared in the two parter Injustice for All. This story as its name would suggest revolves around the Injustice Gang, the evil counterpart to the Justice League.
The Joker is not asked by Lex Luthor who formed the gang to join. Understandably Lex isn’t too happy with the Joker after their last alliance. The Joker however manages to prove himself by capturing Batman and ironically is the last member of the gang to be captured, managing to knock out Wonder Woman with an exploding doll and the Flash with exploding marbles!
Its great seeing the Joker and Lex together again and thankfully this time they don’t undermine either of them. Both get their chance to shine and have brilliant scenes with their archenemies Batman and Superman.
The Joker would next appear in two cameo’s in the episodes Only A Dream part 1 (again opposite Lex Luthor) A Better World part 2 before going on to appear as the main villain in the two parter Wild Cards.
In Wild Cards the Joker takes control of the Vegas strip. He plants bombs all over it and issues a challenge to the League to disarm them. However he also sends a new group of Metahumans (whom he freed from captivity and dubbed the Royal Flush Gan) out to try and stop the League
The Joker broadcasts the Leagues battle with the Royal Flush Gang on television to millions of people all over the world. After the League disarm the bombs it is revealed that the Joker’s real plan was to use Ace, the final member of the gang who has telepathic powers to drive everyone watching insane.
Wild Cards was a brilliant send off for the DCAU Joker. It saw him become a global threat as he tried to drag the entire world into his own lunacy. In a way it made sense. The Joker was always kind of a response to Batman. Originally the Joker was just an average crook, but then he became the Joker as a result of Batman becoming a more elaborate crime fighter. Now similarly Batman has upped his game with the Justice League, a team of super powered heroes who regularly save the world, and so the Joker has put together his own team of super powered psychopaths, the Royal Flush Gang and has come up with a scheme that will allow him to threaten not just Gotham but the whole world!
Whilst Wild Card’s marked Hamill’s final performance as the Joker in the DCAU, he would go on to play the villain in many non DCAU productions.
Hamill appeared opposite Adam West as Batman in the animated short film Batman New Times. He also provided the voice for the Joker in the short lived live action series Birds of Prey. Here his voice was dubbed over actor Roger Stoneburner who the producers felt resembled the character more. The Joker only appeared in one scene where he cripples Batgirl.
Hamill also voiced the Joker in a special feature included on the special edition DVD release of Batman 1989 which depicts the origin of Robin. This scene was originally to have been included in the Burton film, but was left out at the last minute.
In 2009 Hamill voiced the Joker in the video game Batman Arkham Asylum and returned to voice the character in the 2011 sequel Batman Arkham City. Both games were massive successes critically and commercially with Hamill even winning a Video Game BAFTA for his performance in Arkham City.
Whilst Hamill stated that his performance in Arkham City would be his last, he has since returned to the role twice. First in an animated adaptation of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.
Here Hamill was reunited with Kevin Conroy as Batman yet again. Conroy had voiced Batman throughout the entire DCAU, and also in the Arkham games opposite Hamill.
Kevin Conroy is really Mark Hamill’s greatest on screen adversary. His second would be the Empire who has fought for a longer period of time, but not as often, whilst his third would be John Wesley Shipp who he has also fought over the course of 20 years.
He and Conroy have as good a dynamic as Batman and the Joker as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing had as Dracula and Van Helsing.
The Killing Joke was easily one of Hamill’s best performances. It gave him a chance to portray a more sympathetic version of the Joker. In the DCAU we knew that the Joker had always been evil, but the origin story presented in the Killing Joke depicts the Joker as a pitiful failed comedian who is driven to the brink of sanity when his beloved wife perishes in a tragic accident. He is later pushed over the edge when he falls into the vat of chemicals that transforms him into a chalk faced ghoul.
With this version of the character Hamill gets a chance to add a tragic edge to the villain, not only in the flashbacks, but even when the Joker tortures Gordon in an attempt to drive him insane. You can tell buried underneath the madness is a trace of the decent man he once was and ironically it is that that drives him to do such horrible things in this story. The Joker knows he is a monster and still somewhere feels guilt for it. Thus the only way he can ease that guilt is to prove to himself that anyone could be as crazy as he is given the right tragic circumstances. He therefore inflicts the worst tragedy possible on Gordon to try and make him snap.
When Gordon doesn’t snap the Joker can’t take it as it makes him realise that maybe its not just the tragic circumstances the befell him. Maybe there was always a monster lurking under the surface of the seemingly harmless failed comedian and loving husband just waiting to be unleashed.
Following the Killing Joke Hamill would voice the Joker in the current Justice League animated series Justice League Action, though sadly I haven’t had a chance to see this series yet.
Hamill will always for me and so many others be the definitive Joker. Whilst he has played many great villains over the years the Joker is the one that I think he really threw himself into the most. Hamill himself has even referred to the character as his favourite role.
I hope he continues to play the role for many more years to come, but even if he doesn’t I think it can be agreed he has already had a hell of a run as the character.
The Hobgoblin/ Spider-Man The Animated Series
No one has made more puns about killing superheroes than Hamill.
Mark Hamill voiced this villain in the classic 90’s Spider-Man the animated series. The Hobgoblin was one of the shows most recurring villains overall. Whilst John Semper the producer of the series hated the Hobgoblin character from the comics, ironically he kept using him more than most other villains because he loved Hamill’s performance and working with him.
The Hobgoblin first appears in a two parter in the first season. Here the character actually manages to temporarily dethrone the Kingpin, the main villain of the series and take his place. Spider-Man is forced to go into an alliance with Norman Osborne and the Kingpin (albeit loosely) to bring the Hobgoblin down.
At first glance the Hobgoblin is somewhat similar to the Joker. He is another cackling, sadistic, flamboyant villain, but underneath he is actually a completely different character.
The Hobgoblin is not insane. He is just a money grubbing crook. All he wants is wealth and power and there is nothing he won’t do to get it. He’ll stab anyone in the back. In fact in his first appearance he manages to achieve not just a double cross, but a quadruple cross!
The fact that the Hobgoblin was merely someone with no scruples rather than an active psychopathic monster who wanted to make people suffer like the Joker, or even a power mad megolomaniac like Lex Luthor helped him stand out as quite an interesting and unique supervillain in his own right.
He didn’t always have to be the main threat in every episode he appeared in. He still could be such as in his first appearance, but in other episodes such as his season two appearance (which was also a crossover with the X-Men animated series) the Hobgoblin has merely taken advantage of the actual main villain, Doctor Landon’s scheme for his own ends.
Doctor Landon plans to exterminate all of Mutant kind with a new form of plague. No one of course knows this and to the general public at large, Landon is a benevolent scientist who wants to help Mutants. Even Beast initially believes he is a good man. Only the Hobgoblin knows what he is really doing however and blackmails him for money. The Hobgoblin is perfectly happy for Landon to commit genocide just so long as he can make a bit of money out of it!
Ironically however its the Hobgoblin that alerts Spider-Man and Wolverine to what Landon is really doing, as after Landon double crosses him, the Hobgoblin attempts to terrorise Landon in revenge which naturally draws the wallcrawlers suspicions.
Still again you can see how its interesting that on the one hand the Hobgoblin is one of the most reprehensible characters in the series as he is happy for millions of innocent men, women and children to die, on the other again he is not actively wanting to bring it about either. He is literally just indifferent to all forms of human suffering if it benefits him.
In the end the Hobgoblin ends up ironically saving mutankind (though not on purpose). He steals all of Landon’s work in a further effort to blackmail him for its safe return, but when Landon tries to take it back (and dispose of the Hobgoblin) the Hobgoblin ends up accidentally throwing Landon into a vat of chemicals in the resulting fight, which ironically mutates Landon into a 100 foot tall near unstoppable monster.
I always loved the way that the Hobgoblin fucked off after turning Landon into a monster that nearly ravaged all of New York, and took the combined efforts of the X-Men and Spider-Man to stop (even then had it not been for Landon’s assistant who was also a mutant he would have killed them all).
Again you can see how he just doesn’t care about the carnage he causes as along as he can make a profit on it. It doesn’t bother him one bit that Landon will kill thousands of people, he just flies away and leaves the X-Men and Spider-Man to clean up his mess even saying dryly.
“The chance for profit has gone and therefore so am I. So long suckers be seeing ya”
The Hobgoblins insatiable greed however proves to be his undoing in the third season. The Hobgoblin discovers a device which can open up portals and allow him to travel anywhere he wants. Naturally this proves to be useful for carrying out thefts, but when the machine begins to run out of power, the Hobgoblin is forced to go to the Kingpin for help, as only he has the resources to fix it. It was his company that built it in the first place.
The Hobgoblin thinks he can manipulate the Kingpin, but the Kingpin goes behind his back and tries to strong arm Norman Osborne into revealing the identity of the Hobgoblin. Unfortunately this ends up bringing back memories of Norman’s brief stint as the Green Goblin, causing that persona to re-emerge.
The Green Goblin subsequently attempts to kill the Hobgoblin and ends up exposing his identity to the world in the process resulting in the Hobgoblins arrest.
The Hobgoblin ironically did not need the Kingpin’s device at that point anyway. His past crimes had already given him tremendous wealth. He could have lived the rest of his life comfortably with no one, not even Spider-Man or the Kingpin coming close to discovering who he really was, but he was just so greedy he had to have more and ultimately that brought him down, and the fact that it was Norman Osborne, someone he had stabbed in the back twice because of his greed just makes it all the better.
An alternate version of the Hobgoblin would appear in the second last episode of the series. Here ironically the Hobgoblin and the Green Goblin of this universe were shown to be best friends and even worked for an evil alternate version of Spider-Man bonded to the Carnage symbiote called Spider-Carnage (how’s that for a backwards reality!).
Its kind of sad in a way as you can see from this episode how, if the Green Goblin had not been so petty in insisting that he be the only Goblin themed villain, the two Goblins could have been an unstoppable team. In this universe the two villains manage to destroy all of New York and kill everyone in the city, bar J Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson, who they only spare because they need them. They also managed to hold their own against a whole army of Spider-Men from alternate universes (including one who has Doc Ock’s tentacles).
Had our Hobgoblin and Green Goblin teamed up, then our Spider-Man would not have stood a chance.
Whilst Hamill’s Hobgoblin may not have been quite as sensational a character as his Joker, it was still a brilliant performance all around and its not hard to see why John Semper kept bringing him back.
Solomon Grundy/ Justice League
Hamill voiced this villain in the DCAU Justice League animated series. Grundy was never a main villain. He was a large, super powered, idiotic, almost child like cursed Zombie who was often nothing more than a villain for hire.
Though Grundy was an enemy of Green Lantern in the comics here he was more of a foe of Superman, as he was one of the few enemies who could pummel the man of steel.
Grundy despite being a brute, would still nevertheless manage to redeem himself in his final story which sees him not only develop an unlikely friendship with Hawkgirl, but also sacrifice himself to save the Justice League.
Grundy’s death is a somewhat touching moment as Hawkgirl comforts her former enemy in his last moments assuring him that he will finally be allowed to rest and gain his “reward”.
Wolverine/ Wolverine’s Revenge
Hamill voiced this famous Marvel superhero in his video game that was released as a tie in to X-Men 2.
The game not only depicted Wolverine’s origins but also came up with its own original story that saw the clawed mutant go up against the likes of Sabretooth, Magneto and Lady Deathstrike.
I’d say the game was definitely above average. Not an all time classic but it had a reasonably engaging story and it was fun to slice up badguys as Wolverine.
I wouldn’t say Mark was the best Wolverine. Hugh Jackman’s performance as the character has to rank as one of the all time greatest on screen heroes, whilst the definitive voice for the character is probably Cathal J Todd from the 90’s animated series.
Still Hamill’s performance has the right gruff qualities for the character and its nice to see him play a different type of hero to Luke. Wolverine and Luke, though both heroes are almost polar opposites. One a young, noble, idealistic hero, the other an older, rough looking, angry anti hero.
One final thing to mention about Mark’s Wolverine is that he is the only one who has beaten Magneto without help. Pretty incredible when you consider the fact that Magneto always curb stomps Wolverine.
To be fair its to be expected as Magneto can control metal whilst Wolverine’s entire skeleton is coated in metal! Still as we saw in Days of Future Past (which is set before the metal was laced to Wolvies bones) Even without the adamantium skeleton, Magneto is still able to curb stomp Wolverine with virtually no effort at all!
Whilst he may not be as iconic, at least Hamill’s Wolverine isn’t always Magneto’s little bitch like the Hugh Jackman version.
Gargoyle/ Hulk Animated Series
Hamill voiced this villain in the short lived 90’s Hulk animated series. Gargoyle from the start of the show was presented as being more of a bumbling, oafish character in some respects and thus it wasn’t too surprising when he ended up becoming more of a comic relief in the shows second season.
Whilst not the most memorable villain I think Mark did what he could with the relatively minor part and brought a lot of humour and personality to the character.
Christopher Blair/ Wing Commander
One of the most popular video game heroes of the 1990’s, Hamill voiced this character in all but the second instalment of the Wing Commander video game series as well as the short lived 90’s animated series. He also played him in live action cutscenes too.
Some critics have compared Blair to Luke Skywalker. Both are space adventurers and straight forward, noble heroes, but I feel that Blair was a more mature, experienced character as opposed to the whiny teenager Luke was.
Sadly Hamill would not be asked to reprise the role for the 1999 Wing Commander live action film where Blair was played by Freddie Prinze Jr, though he did have a voice over cameo. To be fair though the film wasn’t a patch on the games so Hamill will really always be the definitive Christopher Blair.
Skips/ Regular Show
One of Hamill’s most popular roles, Skips is an immortal Yeti with a mysterious backstory and powers. Though he often has a more depressing and dour persona he does still have a strong sense of humour.
Skips often serves as the exposition guy. He knows almost everything about the supernatural.
Regular Show has proven to be one of the most successful animated series of recent years. Running for 8 seasons of 261 episodes, ironically this Yeti is the character that Hamill has played more times than any other ironically.
He is set to reprise he role in the upcoming Skips movie.
John Curtis/ Criminal Minds
The main antagonist of the 8th season of Criminal Mind’s. Curtis is a serial killer who is driven to lunacy by his own petty jealousy and failures.
By far one of the most dangerous and twisted villains in the entire series Curtis only appears in full in the two part season 8 finale.
Its undoubtedly one of Hamill’s best performances. The character isn’t just a retread of the Joker and Trickster. In some ways he is a much darker character, as he lacks the theatrical qualities those two villains had which made them somewhat likable, Curtis is a repulsive, vicious and petty character through and through.
Among Hamill’s other genre roles include the villainous Maximus in the 90’s Fantastic Four Animated series, the Hannukah Zombie in Futurama and Captain America’s archenemy the Red Skull in The Superhero Squad Show.
Hamill also voiced the main antagonist Fire Lord Ozai in The Last Airbender franchise. Whilst this character proved to be one of Hamill’s most popular roles, sadly I have not seen this series so I couldn’t comment on it.
Hamill has also supplied voices for many video games too including as characters in the Kingdom of Hearts and Call of Duty series, and as Detective Mosely, sidekick to Gabriel Knight (voiced by Tim Curry) in Gabriel Knight Sins of the Fathers.
In live action he has also guest starred on television series such as Chuck, Third Rock from the Sun, the remake of The Outer Limits and SeaQuest DSV.
On stage meanwhile he has played roles as diverse as The Elephant Man and Mozart to great acclaim.
A truly versatile performer, Hamill has managed to earn a special place in genre stars both as one of its greatest heroes and villains.
Thanks for reading.